Another Angle on Church Growth
As we bring our brief study on the theology of the church to a close, and as we move into a discussion of tools and strategies for growth in the smaller church, I think it appropriate to call to our attention a cluster of passages.
In Acts read carefully 6:7, 9:31 and 16:5. In the epistles read 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, Ephesians 2:19-22 and 4:7-16, Colossians 1:9-14 and 2:16-19, 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4, 1 Peter 2:1-3 and 2 Peter 3:14-18.
What you will see is that there is clearly more to “church growth” than “more people.” When we hear the phrase church growth we automatically think of plans, programs and strategies to reach more people and integrate them into the family of God. A measure of this is true, and right, and good.
Yet if you carefully read each of the passages above, you will see that God intends for his church to grow in ways beyond larger numbers. God desires for his church to grow broader and deeper. God intends for his church to grow in faith and love, in holiness and devotion to Christ, in good deeds and steadfast hope.
My suspicion is that if we were to devote ourselves to growing deep, God will provide clear vision for how we may grow wide. The deeper we sink our roots into the nourishing grace of God, the more we will be at his disposal. The first task of church growth is for the church to relinquish willful self-reliance and, in faith, devote herself to God. After all, it is God who gives growth.